Alma College Demolition Bid Turned Down

By: Hank Daniszewski - Free Press Reporter
March 18, 2003

ST. THOMAS - City council here slammed the door on the demolition of Alma College last night. But the future of the historic building is uncertain.

Council voted unanimously to turn down a demolition permit requested in January by owner Brian Squires. The city's municipal heritage committee urged council to deny the application, noting that an engineering report determined the building was structurally sound despite its age.

Squires, who wasn't at the meeting, has said he never had any intention of demolishing the building and only applied for the permit to focus attention on the issue.

Mayor Peter Ostojic said the unanimous rejection of a permit came as no surprise.

"I would hope the developer will proceed with some sort of plan to restore Alma," he said.

Ald. Marie Turvey requested city staff meet with Squires to discuss downtown development plans, which include the Alma site.

The private high school, which drew students from all over the world, closed in 1988.

The building, considered a treasure of Victorian architecture, has slowly deteriorated over the years as a result of vandalism and weather damage.

Squires, who has owned the property since 1998, has proposed a partnership with the city to construct a seniors' complex on the site. He wants to convert Alma College's main building into a seniors' residence. The Valleyview Seniors home would move to a building that would be constructed on the Alma Site.

Ostojic said that although the city is willing to talk to Squires, the discussions won't include any change of plan on the location of Valleyview.

Council recently chose city-owned land on Burwell Road as the new site for Valleyview and has balked at any financial partnership with Squires.